Super-smart resources to help you win


How to Write a Business Proposal Outline ?

Your winning business proposal has a lot of components. It makes sense that you would write a business proposal outline first to help you develop the final submission. Business proposals take several hours to complete and several contributors like proposal writers, subject matter experts, and salespeople. A business proposal outline will help reduce mistakes that occur when ideas and documents are shared between two or more people.

When it comes to how to write a business proposal outline, you should understand a few important aspects of your business proposal response. Three things will help you write an effective business proposal outline and we are going to give you the inside scoop:

The first thing you should understand is:

#1. Who is the business proposal addressing?

Of course, you should have a firm grasp on the prospective client before writing a business proposal, and that includes knowing the client’s issues, hot buttons, and motivators.

Download the Capture Management Guide to understand and prioritize client issues, motivators, and hot buttons.

Next, you should understand the RFP requirements

#2. What does the request for proposal require?

Your business proposal outline is a direct response to a solicited request for proposal (RFP), and the RFP will tell you everything you have in your business proposal to be compliant.

Now, sometimes you may be responding to another type of procurement document. Either way you should know the requirements before creating your business proposal outline. Learn the different types of solicitation documents here.

The last thing you should understand is:

#3. Who is responsible for answering the requirements?

Some areas in your business proposal will require different team members to respond. You can assign team members to your business proposal sections in the outline.

The best person to create the business proposal outline is the proposal writer (duh!). Your business proposal outline will allow you to streamline the proposal management process as well as help you keep the team organized and accountable for their tasks.

Understand those three important things about your business proposal and you can then begin to write the business proposal outline.

We may have mentioned an RFP up above, but the reality is there are several different forms of client solicited procurement documents that business proposals answer. So, to keep everything on an even playing field, we are going to offer you an overview for your business proposal outline that may be applied generally.

Business proposal outlines are the foundation for the proposal response. It should include:

  • An Executive Summary outline
  • A Technical Proposal outline
  • Past performance grid
  • Win Themes
  • References

Better Proposal Management Software

Templates Management

Executive Summary

This is where you will introduce your solution as an overview, show your understanding of the client requirements, and demonstrate why you are the best fit to win the contract. It goes without saying that your Executive Summary is an important part of the business proposal.

It usually comes first and is often the shortest section in the entire proposal. A business proposal outline will come in super handy for something like this. Make sure to grab the client’s attention as soon as possible here. Your business proposal outline should highlight the client’s primary requirements and scope of the project that your business proposal addresses. It should also bullet point your proposed solution and your differentiators as a company.

Remember that your outline should be helpful enough to streamline your proposal management process. Thus, be as detailed as you’d like in the outline so that you can easily translate information into the business proposal.

A proposal management tool will help you do so even faster.

Technical Proposal

Generally, your business proposal will have a technical proposal section, and this section is the largest portion of the proposal. It will unveil your entire solution to the client’s challenges in great, but necessary detail. We say necessary to reinforce that your details should only provide the necessary information, and avoid fluff as much as possible.

Your business proposal outline can list the client’s problem, followed by your proposed solution, a scheduled timeline, and finally a list of representative appendices that can be added to emphasize your solution.

Again, these areas are outlined in concise terms.

Past Performance Grid

Your experience in providing the proposed solution is presented in past performance to make it clear to the client that you can do what you say you can do for them. A past performance grid would simply outline your top 3 (or more depending on the requirements) areas of expertise or case studies that demonstrate your proposed solution.

Wondering what makes this section a grid? Organize past performance in order of precedence and based on the evaluation criteria of the proposal. If necessary, you can also align the past performance next to the client requirement.

Win Themes

Have you determined how you will present the information in your business proposal? We’re not referring to structure. Nope. How are you going to emphasize your differentiators?

Win themes are your company differentiators. They are the key points you want to highlight to make your business proposal stands out. Outline the three differentiators in your business proposal outline and you’ll have your win themes.

For instance, let’s say the client is located in the same state or region as your organization. A win theme could be that you are local and can provide specialized account management with dedicated customer service from a local team.


All business proposal outlines should have a section for references. Gather your references as early as possible from the sales team and place them in the outline. It does not matter the type of business proposal that you are creating, you will absolutely need references that can advocate on your behalf.

As a general rule of thumb, this part of the outline can start with the client’s industry and the references type. Then, you can add the references in order of recency and requirement. Your best references should obviously be listed first, while those that are strong but may not precisely meet client requirements may be listed last.

Ultimately, your business proposal outline will save you the time you need to focus on strategy and to produce a quality business proposal. The best proposal management software helps proposal writers develop the right efficiencies and the best RFP responses that win more business.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments